Melachim Bet

We just can't stop learning! ...The Bekiut Nach class of 5766 in a quest to complete Nevi'im Rishonim

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Melachim Aleph ch.22

In shiur, we failed to learn together the final Perek of Melachim Aleph, so lets begin with that and then move on to Melachim Bet.

The background and basic outline: After 3 years of peace between Yisrael and Aram, Achav decides to attack Aram. If you recall, Chapter 20 had ended with a peace treaty between Aram and Israel detailing that certain cities be returned to Jewish sovereignty. It appears that these agreements were ignored and hence Yisrael aims to recover them in battle.

Interestingly, Achav's ally here is none other than Yehoshafat, King of Yehuda. As they plan for war, we see a fascinating scene in which the prophets of Baal prophesy before the kings. Yehoshafat however requests a Navi Hashem, and when he is brought to the kings the Navi Hashem – Michayahu ben Yimla - predicts defeat in war. In the battle, Achav is hit by an arrow. He remains in the battlefield in order to encourage his troops, but by the end of the day they lose the war, and Achav dies and is buried in Shomron. The text describes the death of Achav as a fulfillment of Eliyahu's decree in 21:19. (It also obviously fulfils the decree of 20:42)

Some focus points:

"My fate like your fate, my people together with your people, my horses with your horses." (22:4)

One of the features of the Achav years is that there was incredible unity between Yisrael and Yehuda. Indeed, despite the fact that Yeoshafat was a Melekh Tzaddik, he married his own son Yehoram to Achav's daughter (see Melachim II 8:17-18.) So they were in-laws! Who knows, maybe with their children getting married, they even saw themselves as reuniting the kingdom in some sense so that Am Yisrael would not be divided into two. (Chazal seem to pick up on this pervasive atmosphere of unity as opposed to division and opportunism in other eras – see Vayikra Rabba 26:2)

Nevi'ei Sheker

The first half of the Perek is focused upon the scene at the threshing floor in which the Neviim "perform" for the Kings. In the classic Jewish tradition, (Shoftim 20:27, Shmuel I 23:10-12, Shmuel II 5:19) Yehoshafat wants to consult with God before war. And here begins a struggle between a band of 400 prophets of Baal who all act and speak in unison, giving an identical message. These are Achav's prophets.

On the other hand is Michayahu Ben Yimla. He has been summoned by request of Yehoshafat, who, being from Yehuda, is very uncomfortable with the prophets of Baal and requests a Navi Lashem.

Two things are significant here.

1. Note how in Judaism, the word of God can stand on its own. Other religions had strength in numbers. Judaism always has the prophet delivering the word of God as he stands alone. It is worthwhile thinking about this. Is it because by its very nature, God empowers only one individual as his messenger. The logical outcome is that only a single individual is eligible to deliver the message. He got it directly from God. Only he can deliver it.

On the other hand are 400 people who talk the same, walk the same. In fact when Michayahu Ben Yimla is summoned, the messenger INSTRUCTS him what to say i.e. given his "lines", so that he will say precisely the same as the other Neviim. My Rav, David Netiv once said in connection with this perek, that we should always be suspicious when we see hundreds of people acting exactly the same way, talking the same, and all in the name of God. God never asks people to act as a herd like that. I have always wondered about this message, and I am still unsure how much this is a reliable rule of thumb. Nonetheless, we are struck by the lone (True) prophet against the 400.

2. A second point is the manner in which these prophets engage in SYMBOLIC ACTS in order to demonstrate their point. Here in passuk 11 the false Navi Zidkiya creates iron horns that symbolize the victory of Israel against Aram.

In this manner, the false prophets follow a Jewish prophetic practice of symbolic actions. From Yirmiyahu walking around Jerusalem with a yoke on his shoulders (ch.27) or Yishayu walking barefoot and undressed as a prisoner of war (ch.20) or Hoshea's marriages etc. Neviei Yisrael frequently were commanded to engage in demonstrative "drama" in order to transmit the message in question. In this manner these Neviei Sheker reinforce their message by acting in the true prophetic tradition.


Obviously here we once again see the nerves of steel necessary for a prophet. Michayahu is used to delivering unpopular messages to the king (see passuk 8.) This time he angers the king so much that the king strikes him and jails him with meager rations, "until I come home safe" Nonetheless, Michayahu holds his ground, saying "we will see who has to flee from room to room." (passuk 25 – a clear reference to the failure of ch.20 … se the same phrase, passuk 30 there.)

In the end of the perek, Achav, though disguised in battle, is injured, and yet he remains in the battlefield, probably losing volumes of blood that cost him his life. He stayed there to encourage his troops. Once the figurehead of the nation was dead, it was unlikely that the rank and file soldiers would hold their discipline, and thus Achav remains propped in his shariot, even though it cost him his life. Chazal in Massechet Moed Katan (28b) talk about this selfless and heroic trait very positively.

As we said in our introduction, Achav is killed as the fulfillment of prophecies in BOTH the end of ch.20 and ch.21. Find the manner in which the end of OUR chapter reflects BOTH of these decrees.

Achav is one of the Kings mentioned in Perek Hachelek who have no place in Olam Habba - a sign that they betrayed their role in the most fundamental of ways.